Do we want students that show pride in their work or that follow school policy?


Or both? Does your school ‘book’ policy tell students the accepted format of their books?

I avoided using ‘independent learners’ in the blog title because I’m not specifically talking about learning, just part of the process involved in it, which you might argue IS learning but I want to specifically reference presentation here.

This year I’ve been considering how much we expect students to do as they’re told in terms of presentation and organisation, to the extent they do it because they’ve been told to do it, instead of seeing value in why they do it.

Last year I had a Twitter discussion about whether students should write the date on their work. Does it really matter? I’m guessing 99% of them do it because they’ve been told to do it, not because they can see how it may benefit them. Which leads to the question, if it doesn’t benefit them then should we be making them do it?

Another example is underlining titles. I have a specific stamper that says ‘underline your title’; it’s regularly used. 

Are we developing students that see the value of organisation or students that just do as they’re told?

This links into our new attitude to learning this year that tries to encourage and celebrate students becoming independent. I spent time thinking what our ‘top’ criteria ‘looks like’ and came up with this:


Bullets 1,2,3 and 9 can be linked to presentation. I want my students not to do what I’ve told them because I’ve told them to, but do it because it was appropriate in that situation and makes them proud of their work.

I’ve been trialling some simple ideas with this:

  • I tell them what the content of their notes will be and they choose the format. Often suggesting a few formats but ultimately it is their choice, their decision as to how they are going to present it best.
  • Giving sets of highlighters out. It somehow encourages them to think more about any words they might highlight or subheadings to stand out
  • Asking them when homework is handed in ‘who thinks they have an exceptional piece of work?’. I then share these. They can all instantly see why these pieces are exceptionally presented and students have taken ‘more than’ the minimum time completing the presentation. (I’m not ignoring content here but the focus of the blog is presentation)
  • My GCSE classes have folders. I think this is great training for when they do post-16 courses. They won’t be given an exercise book. More than likely they’ll pop down to Tesco and get a folder and notepad. I have taught them how to file and organise their work. Now I don’t even need to bother. They know how it works and they want it to be organised. They even ask to take it home to ‘sort’ it. They want it to be great, not for me but for themselves. 

So my challenge is this, a student presented a piece of work in a highly organised manner, highlighting subheadings and writing notes in the margin. But she didn’t underline her title. 

Do I get out my ‘underline your title’ stamper (and in so, following school marking policy) or accept that maybe she doesn’t need to?


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